Snap Out of It...We Have Business to Do

Let me share with you that there are not many people who are as interested in the world of politics more than I. Not the emotional side of politics (though I am) I'm talking about what makes the political world tick and how to better market those issue messages. We have been thorough a bruising primary season and general election season and emotions have been running high. I get that however, we've got work to do, business to accomplish and consumers to satisfy. Men Transfixed

Snap out of it...

Since the election social media has been alive with political nasty. Turn on any talk radio station from NPR to your local News/Talk outlet and it is politics 24/7.  It is hard to focus on business, sales, marketing, advertising and a host of issues that truly impact our daily business life. Hard to focus is we get caught up in the messy business of gloating, blaming and anger management.

But we must move forward because so many people are counting on it.  How do I know you are not? I get to do this daily business news broadcast, Insight on Business the News Hour, and each day we feature two long-form business interviews. That's right, we don't do politics. I've watched the numbers, since the election, on the number of people who are downloading our podcast versions of those interviews and I can share with you they are minimal.

Prior to the election we were humming along with solid numbers of listeners who may have missed the live interview during the broadcast but catch up on them in the podcast. Those numbers are way down.  Because?

Because we are not focused on business. That is troubling. It's not to say that you can't be interested in politics but come on...let's do business. Let's get back to creating opportunity for our employees and our customers.

We've got business to do... 

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Marketing Banks - What You Need To Do

If I were running the marketing department at my locally owned bank or savings and loan I Bank Imagewould crush "Big Bank Competition" and it would be so easy they would write books about it. 

Let me set the stage for you.

Since the Great Recession banks had been trying to rebuild their reputation among consumers and some had turned the corner. But then the Wells Fargo scandal erupted and it's been a Big Bank Nightmare. Case in point, Wells Fargo, last week, said that in September the number of checking accounts opened fell by 25 percent and the number of credit card openings have dropped by 20 percent compared to a year ago.

But, Wells Fargo is not alone. An Accenture survey found that only 30 percent of bank customers say they're loyal to their bank, and about a quarter were shopping around for another institution.

A Gallup poll conducted in June, before the Wells Fargo scandal broke, found that Americans' trust in banks plunged 22 percentage points from 10 years earlier. While nearly half of respondents said before the recession that they trust banks, just over one in four say the same now.

Take a moment and review those numbers.

Now, let's steal Big Bank Customers...ready?

  • Meet The Decision Makers - Tomorrow I would scrap all the glitzy ad stuff and focus on having consumers meet the people who make banking decisions. We'd do this with video, blogs, social media...get out from behind the desk and get in front of the consumer;
  • Mr. President You're On - The bank president might have the corner office but it's time to get out and head to where the people are. If you were our client the bank president would be out of the office twice a week visiting with consumers at everything from Chamber Functions to High School Football games;
  • Record the Action - If your bank or savings and loan were my client we'd send a staffer with you to record video and still images of you being with consumers and potential customers and then share that in your Bank Blog;
  • Ramp Up Cause Marketing - Pick a charity...better yet...pick three and then make some serious donations of time and money to those local charities...and don't pick the "fancy" charities that EVERYBODY gives to...match the community need to the target consumer. BTW critters and kids always work best;
  • Forget About Yield - Please don't tell me that I'll get zip on my savings or that I am insured by FDIC (OK ya gotta do that) talk to ME..recognize that we need to build a relationship outside of earnings;
  • Formal Listening Posts - Get focus groups together, hold listening posts on a number of hot topics from credit repair to student loans to saving for college to business start-ups and then hold public meetings to offer solid advice. And, don't sent the marketing department...you Mr. President...go!

I promise you that you'll make a significant impact in your community and in your bottom line. But, more importantly you will become part of the community who is searching for...integrity.

You are welcome!   

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It's Nearly Here - Are You Ready?

Let's not "beat around the bush" the critical 4th Quarter is nearly here and for many businesses Time Hour Glass it's make or break time. Are you ready to take advantage of what could be the best quarter of 2016 for just about any business?  Let's roll through some opportunity areas:

Traditional Broadcast Media - As they say "Fa-git about it!" It's an election year and if you have not secured your broadcast slots by now...good luck getting airtime between now and November. Many broadcast outlets will bounce your ad in response to political advertising. Make sure you well understand the conditions before you buy.

Traditional Print Media - Depending on what you are selling and even though traditional print media is in a major slump there are still opportunities here with your newspaper. If you are a local business some of the "neighborhood" magazines are still a buy. Word of caution: Remember "Less is More" when it comes to print advertising. Use color, buy at least a half page and be very image focused with a minimum of words...trust us.

Facebook Specials - Start your planning now for your Facebook Ads and Facebook Rewards for your most loyal customers. Make sure your graphics stand out and that the call to action is clear. And, don't bother with a 10% off reward. People don't really start to get motivated unless it is 20% or higher.

Back-Story Blog - You do have a business blog...right? This week start writing down what you are doing to prepare for the 4th Quarter. Give your readers/customers a look behind the scenes as to what is going on as you prepare for THEM a great shopping season. Even if you are not seasonal but a professional business; people love to "look behind the curtain".

Social Media Efforts - Planning is key. First you must know WHERE your target market is spending time. If your target is young consumers try Snapchat and Instagram. Don't forget about targeted geo-marketing using digital and if you don't have an active social media presence now is the time to start...like today.

YouTube - If you can't buy television time because of the election cycle...create your own television station on YouTube and share your creative videos across several social media channels. You won't get the coverage but...it can build sales.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys - The business that cares about how they meet or exceed their customers needs wins. Look, all you have to do is ask. Use your email list of customers (you have one right) and design a quick survey and in that survey do not forget to have at least one "call to action", "If you were pleased with our service what is it we can do for you now to help you and make your day better?"  Gotta ask for the order.

Website Update - Update your website with images of fall and change some wording around. Remember, even on your website you should have a call to action...

There are all kinds of ways to take advantage of the 4th Quarter but it takes time and effort. This is not an exhaustive list...but it's enough to get you started.

Thanks for reading!

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How Much Should I Spend on Advertising/Marketing?

Some time ago I wrote about this topic and said then the answer to the question..."depends".
It depends on what you are selling, to whom you are selling and where you are selling. There are so many variables that it's difficult to answer the question without more information. Man Wine Guessing

This week I read a piece authored by John Heenan who assists advertising agencies in marketing themselves. That brought to light some interesting statistics that I think you'll find interesting as you attempt to advertise/market your company B2C or B2B.

When we look at some numbers we find the percentages are all over the board. According to Heenan, "Apple spends 7% of their revenue on sales and marketing, Tempur Sealy spends 15%, Oracle spends 20%, and Salesforce spends a whopping 56%. For B2B companies the simple answer is 6%. But it’s never simple."

Notice that last line..."But it's never simple."

Heenan goes on, "According to a 2014 AMA and Duke University study, 10% is the average for B2B. Does that mean 10% is the right number for you? Not necessarily. There are many factors to consider..."  So let's break them down:

  • Your Market - Who are you trying to attract to your product or service? If you are a retail business the answer may be very broad. If you are selling products or services to farmers your market gets less broad. If you are selling a service and you know the dominant decision maker your market gets less broad;
  • Your Market Hangouts - Where are your people? For example over 1 million people attended the Iowa State Fair in August if you are marketing to a broad range of people maybe you should have been there. Conversely, perhaps your target market is teachers in that case you need to be where they gather for events;
  • Your Current Customers - They are already coming in your door make sure they don't forget about you and continue to massage them with personal notes, calls and/or events. Just because they purchased what you are selling once doesn't mean they will be back unless you continue that relationship. Remember it costs less to keep a client than to find new clients;
  • Your Cost Per Customer - What does it cost you now to land a new customer and where did they come from? Do you know or do you think you know? "Word of mouth" is a common answer as to how they heard about your product/service however that answer isn't always right...but it is the easiest. 

Those four areas will help you start to define where and who your target market is and those are the first steps before you spend one dime on advertising. Remember finding out the answers to those questions all have a cost associated with the research...don't forget to include that in your base number.

See, told you "it depends".


Working It!

One of our preferred methods of communicating with businesses is on Twitter. The reason is simple; if the company is social media savvy the response time on Twitter is much faster and more direct than an email or phone call. Why? Because of transparency. When a company says they are "customer focused" yet ignore consumers the promise is empty.  In other words their action, or often inaction, speaks volumes. However on Social Media, and in this case Mid American Energy CONVO USE August 2016Twitter, everybody has a peek at what is really going on.

Sometimes things happen that allow the cream to rise to the top (if you've never milked a cow you might have to go look that up). Sometimes big and small companies outperform and here are two examples.

Last week there was a power outage in much of Iowa due to storms. Here in the Des Moines Metro thousands were without power. MidAmerican Energy is the local provider and I've learned, over the years, to turn to Twitter for help and input. I mentioned we were without electricity in our part of the Metro and within moments help and advice came back from @Mid_AmEnergyCo. So I checked their Twitter Stream and found their social media team was responding with not only advice but empathy. Actual REAL PEOPLE were responding and showing concern.

You can read the conversation above and to the right. If you click on the image it will enlarge...start at the bottom.

DART Convo August 2016Then, later in the week, I rode a Des Moines Area Rapid Transit bus to the Iowa State Fair. The bus lacked air conditioning and folks were opening up windows on the ride from the Capitol to the fairgrounds. I sent a Tweet chiding @RideDart and within two minutes they responded and were on it...notice the second screen shot.

Bottom Line

It does not matter if you are a small business or a large corporation you need to know and understand that in the world today there are many ways to communicate and be transparent. Those companies who "get it" and respond with feeling, empathy and honesty will always rise to the top and I, as a business person, am proud to call them out and share with you why I support them.  It takes work and dedication from the part of the company but it is so rewarding for those of us who count on you for service...well done! 

 

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Engage Your Loyal Friends!

I know lots and lots of business owners that have lots and lots of "friends" on their various Friends Selfiesocial media channels yet they often complain they are not seeing sales match the number of people who are following them.

Wanna know why?

Because you have not ASKED for their help.

Follow along on this for a moment. It takes seconds to "Like" a page and maybe...maybe comment... Once done with that task many of your "friends" feel as if their investment is over. And you, and your business, racks up another "Like" which will do little to boost your bottom line.

How do you fix that?

  • Say "Thank You" - Don't ignore new "likes" or "friends" they may have liked your page but without you engaging them with at least a "Thank you!" they have little reason to champion your business;
  • Reward Your Brand Warriors - It doesn't take much to know WHO really helps drive your business. Which of your friends/customers continue to share positive messages about your brand to their friends. Then invite them to enjoy a free SOMETHING as a "thank you" for their help;
  • Have a Party - Want to jump start engagement?  If I had a retail business with hundreds or even thousands of "friends" I would invite the most active of them to the business for a party...just for them. Thank them for their work and give them a simple assignment to keep it up;
  • Personal Friends - Outside of social media you no doubt have friends...you know...folks you know well and often hang out with.  Don't forget them. They already like you so why not ask them to share their thoughts about your business with their friends?  The next gathering where you are together slip them a note with the "ask"...ask them to become brand warriors. Bet they will.

You can do all of this with a little effort that will pay huge rewards. Engage your "Friends" and they will help champion your brand.

You're welcome!

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Ad Blocking - What it Means for Business

Hang on because those of you who are spending money on popup or banner ads on websites Road Closedare in for a bit of a shock. The use of ad blocking is growing rapidly. A full 25% of internet users currently use ad blocking software and that number is expected to double in 2016. Double... Here's the story from eMarketer.

We already know that people are skipping through ads on broadcast television. We already know that people tune out ads on the radio. We already know that click-through rates on internet ads is dismal. We already know that most email marketing has a lousy click through rate IF it gets past the "Junk Mail" folder.

Why?

Because most advertising done on a local level is just plain...bad. There is no incentive to NOT block or skip or open the marketing message because...it's usually done poorly.

What to do?  Here are some solid tips to help you and your business get noticed:

Get Creative - Yes it costs money for good creative but you want your message to be seen/heard...correct? Lousy creative means lousy response. Give consumers a reason NOT to BLOCK your message. It makes no sense to spend $5,000 on an advertising campaign and spend zero on creative. It's called "burning money";

Get Social - If your marketing is not correctly using social media you are not going to be successful in reaching consumers. It takes planning and thought and work and consistency to pull off a successful social media campaign...not some "intern" who "knows the internet". Sit down and think...think about your message, your customers, where they hang out, what they want and then communicate with them...socially.

Get Busy - Reaching out to your current or potential customer requires you to know what is hot and what is not. There are, according to my good friend Mike Wagner, only three reasons why people are not buying what you are selling: 1) Wrong Product, 2) Wrong People, 3) Wrong Message.

There is help available. I know dozens of professional advertising/marketing people in the country. The question to you is...do you want the help or are you blocking this message?

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Please People - Go Mobile for Business

Last week I was traveling through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (fit THAT on a business card!) and down one of the concourses I found something called Minute Suites.They Minute Suites are private suites that travelers can rent by the hour so you can catch up on much needed sleep, have a meeting, do some work...you get it. Really nice idea and something that international travelers have seen for some time.

I wanted to learn more and, because I was traveling, I used my phone to dial up their website.

This is where the story gets difficult. Above you'll catch a screen shot of their website that popped up on my phone. Notice that it's not mobile friendly. To even attempt to read anything about the company you've got to "pinch and stretch" the screen.  

I took a moment and shot off a quick Tweet to @MinuteSuites complementing the idea and suggesting they might want to go mobile...because, and here is the irony...they are trying to reach travelers who are working their mobile devices but the company is making it difficult for consumers to engage.

Minute Suites TwitterI did get a reply and here it is: 

Kudos for the fast social media turn but what the heck is the Mind Body App? I don't want to know I just want to connect...mobile.

My message is not to be mean...but your lesson, if you are still with me is this: You MUST know your consumer base and how they connect with your product/service and then do everything you can to boost their ability to engage you.

It matters...

Thanks for reading and, as always, dive in if you've got a comment.

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Future Entrepreneurs - Simpson Collage

This week I was honored to be asked to judge the Simpson College 2016 Iron Journalist Pitch. I Simpson Iron Journalist 2016 was joined by Heather Hassebroek (Bublins) and Kaylee Williams (Volunteer Local). We were there to listen to business startup ideas created by four journalism students, Brock Borgenson (top left), Brittany Robb (top right), James Tillison (bottom left) and Kylee Hereid (bottom right).  The judges were encouraged to offer tips and ask questions of each contestant.

I know, "What? Journalism Students pitching for-profit business ideas?!?" That had me too so I was truly intrigued as to why Professor and Chair of Multimedia  Brian Steffen would mix "The Fourth Estate" with business creation. He said, "Journalism is rapidly changing and I want my students to think as entrepreneurs and to learn how to craft messages that will match consumer interest. Many of these students may find success in creating content that is not part of major news organizations but content consumed by people interested in specific niche areas." Good enough for me....

Here is a brief overview of each pitch:

  • Brock Borgenson - I'm not in his target market of but found his idea of marketing the sport of "Gaming" interesting. His idea was to create a portal where people, and there are millions, can come and learn more about professional and amateur "Gamers" through video, written tips, a magazine and walk-through events.  
  • Kylee Hereid - Her pitch was about weddings and creating a place where brides and grooms, in Iowa, could go to find and connect with everything from clothing to cakes. I loved the idea of keeping it "local" to Iowa and thereby helping folks in rural parts of the state get connected with goods and services. She would also, in the future, franchise to other states. This edition was I Do - Iowa. Nice. 
  • Brittany Robb - This was an interesting twist covering virtual reality news. In fact the site is called VRNews. The goal was to share VR technology news with others from business to research schools. She says, and I have to agree, this technology will be the next "hot thing".
  • James Tillison - This pitch became personal. James received his Eagle Scout at the age of 15. His pitch was hyper-local to the Mid-Iowa Council of The Boy Scouts of America. He envisioned a platform that would instruct, encourage and expand the knowledge of the 2,000+ Boy Scouts in Central Iowa. As he was presenting my mind floated back to my Boy Scout days and the impact those had on my life.   

We asked questions, tallied up the score and in the end the winner of the 2016 Simpson College Iron Journalist Challenge was Brock Borgeson of Naperville, Illinois.

Good stuff and thank you again for asking me to be part of the adventure. It was worth every minute. 

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Bad Public Relations is Bad Branding

If the numbers are any indication shopping malls in the United States are becoming extinct. Overwhelmed According to Green Street Advisers, a real estate and REIT analytic firm 15% of US malls will fail and be converted into non-retail space in the next ten years. In 15 - 20 years retail consultants say that as many as half of the current malls in this country will fail...unless your anchor is a very upscale store.

With that kind of future one would think malls would be trying to find a way to offer a kind and welcoming face to the public. One would think.

Last year Merle Hay Mall became the first to demand that the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) move their bus stop off their property. DART says they tried to negotiate something with mall owners but, in the end failed. (They tell me they are still open for negotiation.)

Valley West LogoThen last week management at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines sent a letter to DART telling them they would have to move their bus stop off mall property. In a Des Moines Register piece this past weekend mall management, I suspect Paul Stender, says the current bus stop has "overwhelmed the retail center with buses and riders". DART has told me they continue to reach out to Valley West Mall to compromise.

Internal statistics from DART suggest that 75% of the riders to Valley West Mall are employees or shoppers and 25% are seeking to transfer to a different bus.

But, the mall is "overwhelmed".

Here, in all its glory is exactly the wrong way to brand...anything.  Get into a very public pissing match with an agency that serves, often, handicapped individuals, poor folks who can't afford a car and employees who are stuck at a retail minimum wage jobs.

Nice going...and now, on Facebook, there is an ever growing number of people who are offering to ease the crowding at Valley West Mall through a boycott.

Let's return to the first paragraph. Malls are in enough trouble and, for the life of me, I can't understand why they would wish to hurry their demise. One of my favorite stores is Von Maur. How favorite? When I pull out my Petersen Harned & Von Maur credit card I got back in 1982 employees tend to oooh and ahhh and say, "My, you have been with us for a very long time". I suspect, if I want to continue shopping there, it may have to be on-line. On-line shopping....the other reason malls are floundering.

Thanks for reading.

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